Mumbai: In a development that could imperil the stability of the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition is emerging among the Shiv Sena, Congress, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The Shiv Sena, which needs the Congress to support its mayoral candidate in Mumbai, has initiated a friendly outreach to the latter through its mouthpiece Saamana.
In the recent election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the Shiv Sena emerged the single largest party winning 84 seats and the BJP a close second at 82. Since the results came out, two independent corporators have joined the Sena and one has pledged support, taking the tally to 87. A simple majority in 227-seat BMC is 114. The Congress has 31 seats and NCP 9. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has won 7 seats.
ALSO READ | Mumbai mayoral race deadlock continues as BJP waits and watches
Without officially taking a position on the mayoral poll, the Congress has indicated that it may support Shiv Sena provided the latter pulls out of the Maharashtra government before 9 March.
Congress and NCP functionaries also said the two parties are in talks over giving a notice of no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government on 6 March when the budget session of the Maharashtra legislature begins. Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane told reporters on Monday that if Sena pulls out, the government would fall and a no-confidence motion would not be required. “But I have been saying from day one that unless pushed out of the government, Shiv Sena won’t give up power," Rane said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has already stated that his party is not in favour of a BJP mayor in Mumbai, but has not ruled out supporting a Sena nominee.
An editorial published on Monday in Saamanasaid the Congress party, though not fully trustworthy, is better than the BJP, which is running a coalition government with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir.
ALSO READ | Why has Maharashtra turned 50 shades of saffron?
The editorial took potshots at the BJP for inducting “goons and criminals" from the Congress and NCP, and says the BJP itself has become another Congress. The original Congress is better than this BJP, which has endangered the future of the nation, says the editorial.
It also blames the BJP for planting the theory of Shiv Sena taking the support from the Congress in the Mumbai mayoral poll.
“When chief minister Devendra Fadnavis declared that the BJP will not go with the Congress, he should also have added that the BJP will go with pro-Pakistan PDP," the editorial added.
A BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said the Shiv Sena was paving the way for working with the Congress in the BMC as well as the state government. “If you recall, Saamanawrote an editorial during the election campaign criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for blaming the 60-year rule of Congress and credited the Congress with India’s development so far. Shiv Sena was aware that it is not going to get a majority in BMC and may need Congress’ support. So, Saamanais creating an ideological justification for this alliance," said the BJP leader.
ALSO READ | Devendra Fadnavis emerges as BJP’s new poster boy
The Congress and NCP, which together cannot form a government in the state or at the BMC, are building pressure on Shiv Sena to quit the government. Senior BJP leader and Union minister for transport Nitin Gadkari said on Sunday that the “Congress wanted to destabilize the Fadnavis government."
A Congress leader, who requested anonymity, said the party did not want to destabilize the Fadnavis government but was only keen on “testing Sena’s commitment to BJP". “That is why we want to give a notice of no-confidence motion on 6 March itself so that Sena is forced to take a stand before mayoral poll on 9 March. We don’t want the Sena to get the mayor’s post with our support and also continue in the government," he said.